Christopher Cricket sat beneath a holly hock leaf and listened very carefully. There were a lot of sounds to be heard in the back yard of a New York townhouse. A blue jay called his shrill challenge to anyone who dared come near the bird feeder. A squirrel chattered noisily in the big oak tree. Horns honked in the street beyond the buildings, and a….
Wait! Was that another cricket calling from across the way? Christopher rubbed his back legs together and gave a cheery chirrup.
Yes. It was definitely a lady cricket chirruping for company! Christopher chirruped softly as he made his way across the yard. He was very careful not to draw attention to himself, for blue jays might like a tasty cricket for lunch. Soon he and Cassidy Cricket were chirruping together, making beautiful cricket music.
“My, my,” said Cassidy Cricket, “you do have a beautiful chirrup. I don’t think I’ve ever heard one so melodic!”
“Well,” answered Christopher, “I do practice a lot and I listen very carefully when the lady who lives in that building plays her violin.” He gave a few chirrups to demonstrate his ability.
Soon it was time for the visit to be over and Christopher decided, since he was now so close to the window of the town house, to take a peek inside. He was very good at climbing and soon he was sitting on the windowsill. A gauzy curtain hid him from view, but he was able to see through it and, wonder of wonders, the lady walked into the room and picked up her violin!
The first pure notes made Christopher sigh. How beautifully she played! He rubbed his legs together very slowly and tried to make sounds to match the violin. At first he couldn’t make the same sounds, but as he kept listening and learning, the chirrups began to sound more and more like the violin. Just as he was congratulating himself on having learned such a pretty song, the curtain was lifted and standing before him was the lady herself!
Oh! Christopher jumped off the sill and all the way down to the ground! Thankfully, the soft grass made for an easy landing and he was about to take off for the holly hock when he heard her call to him with the violin. Such a purely beautiful sound came forth that he stopped and looked around. He could hear questions in the music and something that sounded like, “Please come back!”
Part of him wanted to hop away to the holly hock, but another part of him wanted to listen to the music. So he stopped quite still and just listened. Soon he was moving closer to the window to hear better. The lady leaned far out the window and said to him, “Please come visit with me, little cricket. I won’t hurt you.”
Christopher hesitated. But he did want to hear more of that beautiful music; so he hopped closer and then right onto the violin bow which she held out to him. Very carefully she brought the bow inside and set it on the table where her violin had been lying. Christopher hopped off and sat looking at her.
“Hmmm”, said the lady, “where did you learn to sing like that?”
Christopher wanted to tell her he had learned by listening to her play, but he didn’t speak human. He just rubbed his legs together and made a happy sound.
Slowly, so as not to frighten him the lady picked up the violin and drew the bow across the strings. Christopher matched the sound exactly. She played a simple tune and Christopher chirruped right along with her.
They played and chirruped for almost an hour and Christopher’s legs were getting very tired. When the lady heard his melody slowing down she said, “Oh, I’m sorry little cricket! You must be very tired after all that work! Let’s rest a while and have a snack!
She left the room and returned with a cup of coffee and some cookies. “I hope you like cookies,” she said and placed one close to Christopher. Indeed he did! And he ate right along with her. She even left a few drops of coffee in her spoon and let him have a taste.
Soon they were both rested and played a few more songs. “Will you stay with me a while?” she asked Christopher. “If so, you can sleep in my violin case with my violin and bow.” She placed the violin in its case and let the bow rest on the table and case so Christopher could climb into the case.
The little cricket was very comfortable and the case became his home. Every day they practiced and every day he sounded more and more like a violin. They did not speak the same language, but they used the language of music. It was the lady who named him Christopher and she told him her name was Jenny.
One day Jenny laid down her bow and violin and said to Christopher, “I am going to play in a string ensemble tonight. I would like you to come and let me introduce you to my friends.” Christopher wasn’t sure what she meant but he played an arpeggio to show her he was happy.
That night Jenny told the other members of the string ensemble about the little cricket who could make beautiful music. “Hmmph!” harrumphed the cello player, “Who ever heard of an insect who could make music!”
From inside Jenny’s violin case came a melodious chirrup. “Oh bring him out!” cried the
Jenny lifted the lid and Christopher hopped out. “Now, listen!” said Jenny. She played a complicated melody and Christopher chirruped right along with her. The others – all but the cello player – clapped so loudly they frightened Christopher and he jumped back into his violin case home!
They all agreed that Christopher should sit on Jenny’s shoulder and play along with them that night. Well, the cello player didn’t agree but he was out voted. So Christopher sat on Jenny’s shoulder that evening and played along softly. No one saw him but several people told the group later they had never heard them play so well! And Christopher even got used to the applause.
After that evening Christopher played many times; sitting on Jenny’s shoulder and making beautiful music. One day Jenny received a letter from the conductor of the orchestra where she played. She brought it to the music room to read it to Christopher. “Listen!” she cried, lifting the top of the violin case where Christopher was sleeping.
“Let me read you the letter I got today!” Christopher gave a sleepy sounding chirrup and listened.
“My conductor says he has heard of you and would like to hear you sing! He wants me to take you to his office today for an audition!”
The next day Jenny took Christopher and her violin to the conductor’s office. Christopher traveled snug and comfortable in the violin case as he always did. When they arrived the conductor, Mr. Pettigrew, welcomed them warmly. “Come in! Come in!” he said and opened the door wide. “But where is this marvelous cricket I’ve been hearing about?” he asked.
“Right here, Sir,” said Jenny, and she opened the violin case. Christopher did not hop out right away for he was just a little afraid of the conductor who waved a rather long stick at the orchestra. “That’s OK, Christopher, you can come out.” And Jenny put her hand close to Christopher so he could hop on to it.
Mr. Pettigrew came very close to Christopher and looked him over carefully. “Well, he certainly looks ordinary enough. Will you show me what he can do?”
Jenny put Christopher on her shoulder and picked up her violin and bow. She took a moment to make sure it was in tune and Christopher followed the notes softly. Then, she played a few arpeggios and Christopher follower her up and down the scales perfectly.
“Bravo!” clapped the conductor. “Now, play me a real song!”
Jenny chose their favorite, Chopin’s Prelude in C# minor. Christopher not only followed the notes but put in a few variations of his own. When they had finished, the conductor sat quietly for a while. Then he asked Jenny to put Christopher on the desk. “How would you like to play a solo of your own next time we have a concert?” he asked Christopher. Of course Christopher could not speak back, but he did answer with a flurry of chirrups. “I’ll take that as a ‘yes’!” laughed the conductor. He turned to Jenny, “Have him pick out a lively tune and he will have a featured spot in our next engagement.”
Thanking Mr. Pettigrew Jenny put Christopher back in the violin case along with her instruments and returned to the townhouse.
Just as he’d promised Christopher Cricket was placed atop the conductor’s podium close to a microphone and introduced as the singing cricket. The piece was indeed lively and since the musicians all held their instruments on their laps, it was obvious the music was coming from Christopher’s talented hind legs. The audience clapped loud and long and shouted out, “Encore! Encore!” until Jenny agreed to let him play again.
After the second song, Jenny put Christopher on her shoulder and told the conductor he was too tired to play solo again. This ended Christopher’s debut at the symphony. But later Mr. Pettigrew was asked to bring his orchestra and especially Christopher to Carnegie Hall, for some of those who played there had heard Christopher’s performance.
So it was that the little orchestra played at the famous New York music hall. Someone tried to get Christopher to wear a little white tie for the occasion, but Jenny said Christopher was Christopher and needed nothing to make him fancier than he was.
While they were playing a scientist who had heard of Christopher’s unusual ability listened intently. He leaned over and whispered in his assistant’s ear, “We must get that cricket and see what gives him that ability! Make sure we get to talk to that conductor after the program!”
The scientist and his assistant went to the front of the hall as soon as the concert ended and asked to see the conductor. The scientist introduced himself, “Maestro, my name is Dr. Sweetney and I am interested in meeting the young lady with the cricket. Can you arrange a meeting?”
“Well, I’m not sure”, said the conductor who was rather surprised at being questioned before any conversation. “I can give her a call in the morning and arrange something I suppose. Why did you want to meet her?”
“We are interested in her cricket. We want to find out how it makes such sounds and what is so special about it. Please give her a call and give us her address.”
“I will call her, but if you will give me a number where you can be reached I’ll have her call you back.” The conductor was not at all sure he liked the looks of this Dr. Sweetney.
“Very well, that will have to do. Here is my number. Tell her this could involve a rather large sum of money!” And the scientist and his assistant left the office.
After Conductor Pettigrew heard the phrase, “a large sum of money”, he knew he’d been right in feeling ill at ease with his guests. He looked at the clock and decided to stay in the office until Jenny had had time to get home. “Jenny,” he said when she answered her phone, “There are a couple of scientists who wan to meet you and Christopher. I told them I would call you and give you their phone number. But, I do not have a good feeling about these two and I think Christopher would be safer if you did not call them. In fact, I don’t think Christopher should be onstage from now on. He is a very special cricket and there will be others who will want to study him.”
Jenny thanked the conductor and looked at Christopher. “My little friend, I am afraid I have put you in danger. From now on we will only play our violins here in my home. And, if anyone comes to the door, you must hop under this chest and stay very, very quiet so no one will know you are here.”
So it was that Christopher lived with the pretty lady with the violin and spent many happy hours playing his music. No one heard of him again and when the scientist came to another concert and got to talk to Jenny, she told him Christopher was no longer playing concerts. She did not tell them the little cricket still lived at her house, but let them think he had gone away.
And we will just let him think that, won’t we!